Let's Write: The Suspense Thriller
When writing the suspense thriller as in writing anything else, it is important to plan your short story. This is where an outline comes into play. Decide what you want the story to be about and how you will add that element of surprise into your story. Map out your protagonist and antagonist to make your piece interesting. Think about the following questions:
- Who is the victim in the story?
- What is important about the main character of the story?
- Why is this character so important?
- When will the victim be eliminated and under what circumstances?
- How will your story climax?
After you have answered these important questions you are ready to begin your short story. See if you can identify any of the questions in this story.
Is Claire Davenport really gone ...
Claire is gone …
Claire Davenport’s unassailable voice is silenced forever. However, her influence on both the Parker and Andrews families will continue to be felt long after her stern words have faded.
By the age of forty-nine Claire has made many enemies and at fifty an aneurysm in the brain suddenly ends a dynamic and controversial existence. Only Claire’s family and a few very close associates are present at the magnificent cathedral where the last rites are being held.
The services for this inexplicable individual are both elaborate and private. An elegant portrait of Claire sits on a marble table along with a dozen long stemmed scarlet roses nestled handsomely in an Austrian crystal and gold trimmed vase. A silver urn lined with crimson velvet holds the remains of the woman who was cremated the day before. Her ashes—a final reminder of what was once a vibrant and multifarious personality.
Reverend Patrick Davenport speaks.
“Very few will deny that Claire Davenport was a formidable woman. Her influence in this cathedral, the community, as well as the lives of each of us was immensely felt.”
The chandeliers appear to sway a gentle “amen” as a sudden cool breeze rushes in to fill the almost empty edifice. Jonathan Andrews arrives late.
“The contributions Claire made to this cathedral, the scholarships she created for Maude Fabersham’s Ultimate Allure and the Maple Grove Preparatory Academy assisted numerous deserving people both young and old.”
Rev. Davenport continues his rhetoric oblivious to the fact that all eyes are focused in disbelief at the serene picture of Claire Davenport. How the artist managed to capture the essence of the woman on canvas is remarkable! The portrait is a replica of the original oil painting hanging on the wall just inside Claire’s large four poster bed. No one makes a sound; not even the small children.
The occurrences leading up to Claire’s untimely demise begin with her engaging in yet another controversy over her niece Karen. Rachel Davenport Parker, Karen’s mother, is firmly against her older sister’s constant interference in the romantic affairs of her oldest daughter.
“Why don’t you let Karen make up her own mind regarding who she wishes to be romantically entangled?” Rachel states for the 100th time.
“Dear Rachel, how could you possibly understand such things? Young, beautiful and impressionable you were always fortunate enough to be exposed to the very best life has to offer. Because of my influence you never lacked anything! I made you who you are today and this is the gratitude I receive.” Claire proclaims in disdain.
“All I am saying is that your controlling influence is neither welcomed nor needed in the lives of my daughters.” Rachel states fearing her sister’s wrath regarding such a bold comment.
“How dare you speak to me with such insolence; you are an ungrateful waif.” Claire answers smugly.
“I do appreciate all you did for me after mother’s death but …” Before the demure Rachel can finish her sentence; she burst into tears.
Suffocation and total exhaustion have claimed the attractive woman. It is her husband Cedric Parker who finally intervenes no longer able to contain his repulsion.
“Please don’t let the door hit you on your way out, Claire! I would say that it has been a pleasure having you over—but as usual it hasn’t!” Cedric verbally attacks Claire.
“Why Cedric … I have NEVER known you to be rude!” Claire retorts in surprise.
“And … I have NEVER known you to be civil, good day!” Cedric concludes grabbing Claire by her elbow and ushering her to the front door. After slamming it shut, he returns to Rachel who is now near hysterics.
“This isn’t over, Rachel!” Claire shouts to a closed door. “No, this is not over. My shadow is long and can be casted anywhere.” Claire repeats more quietly.
Moving swiftly to her Pink Porsche, Claire closes the door with great determination and speeds down the lane in the direction of the vicarage. Upon arrival she pushes past the church treasurer and invades the abode with a proprietary gait.
“Dear Claire, how marvelous it is to see you, sister.” Rev Davenport commences. “I was just about to give you a call.”
“I hope it was regarding that urgent matter I discussed with you earlier Patrick.” Claire responds not too happily.
“Yes, that little matter of the eight thousand, well … “Rev Davenport lowers his eyes and begins to shuffle his feet back and forth.
“I don’t consider eight thousand to be a little matter, Patrick. I covered that gambling debt of yours with the understanding that my money would be paid in full within 48 hours.” Claire’s whole being is tense and her lovely face shows utter loathe toward her younger brother, the Right Reverend Patrick Marcus Davenport II.
“Yes … yes I know Claire but you must understand that withdrawing that large amount of money from the church’s treasury will raise a few eyebrows.” Rev Davenport states as he quietly reflects over the previous conversation with the church’s treasurer.
“I think even more than just eyebrows will be raised if your congregation found out about your extra curriculum activities.” Claire states as she glares contemptuously at the cleric.
“You wouldn’t do that surely Claire … it would ruin me.” Rev Davenport replies rushing after his sister as she now moves toward the door.
It is with great effort that Rev Davenport tries to catch up with Claire but he finally manages to reach her as she sits waiting in the car.
“Yes, I would dear brother. Either you provide me with payment in full by noon tomorrow or I will go directly to the Board of Trustees.” Claire whispers to the trembling reverend; then drives toward her mansion.
Rev Davenport, Rachel and Cedric Parker are not the only family members to have a confrontation with Claire on that fateful night. Karen Parker has been seeing Jonathan Andrews in spite of her aunt’s blatant fascination with his younger brother, Wyatt. Claire feels that Karen is jeopardizing her chances with Wyatt by being seen with Jonathan.
“You should definitely stop seeing that other Andrews boy, Karen.” Claire starts into Karen the minute she walks into her aunt’s bedroom.
“I’ll admit, he definitely doesn’t measure up to Wyatt, but he’s nice.” Karen defends.
“Nice? Nice … I did not groom you all these years just to settle for a nice boy. Wyatt would be perfect for you. He is handsome, refined … if only he wasn’t so enthralled by your little sister Katherine … that traipse!” Claire declares with disdain.
“I will admit that Katie lacks many of the social graces but …” Claire interrupts.
“Many of the social graces … talk about a bull in the china shop …” Before Claire can finish Karen comes to her sister’s rescue.
“Kate is a fine young woman. She excels in athletic pursuits and is exceptional in academics. Her interests are just different than ours. And by far she is much prettier than …” Once again Claire interrupts.
“Stop … not another word. I understand that she is your younger sister but she is also your rival. You must not let yourself be blinded by sentimentality!” Claire interjects rubbing her temples.
“I have to go, Aunt Claire. Jonathan is waiting for me.” Karen rises from her chair near her aunt’s bed and brushes her lips against Claire’s forehead.
“So, you plan on seeing him in spite of my wishes?” Claire questions.
“Yes …” The one word speaks volumes.
“Very well, I have a headache. Please leave.” Claire dismisses Karen and reaches for her medicine to prevent an approaching migraine episode.
Before she can retrieve the box the doorbell rings and it is Jonathan Andrews. He is escorted into the bedroom by the approving Amanda Andrews, Jonathan’s spinster aunt. Jonathan has come to make a final plea to Claire regarding his fascination with Karen Parker.
Claire reluctantly allows Jonathan a moment of her time at Amanda’s request.
“Well, what is it Jonathan? I am not in the habit of receiving young gentlemen in my bedroom. I suppose you are here on behalf of Karen.” Claire looks sternly at Jonathan.
“Yes, madam I am. Karen is waiting for me in the car. She asked me not to speak with you but I felt that I must.” Jonathan begins his conversation. “I don’t understand why you dislike me. I only want the best for Karen.”
“If you truly wanted the best for my niece you would step aside and allow your brother to court her.” Claire is hardly able to contain herself because of the pain she is now experiencing.
“My brother is not interested in Karen. He and Kate are planning to be married …” Before Jonathan can finish his sentence a vase from the night stand barely misses his head.
“Get out of my bedroom and my niece’s life! I never want to see you again.” Jonathan hurries from the room almost colliding into Amanda in the hallway.
Claire reaches for the medication that she keeps on her bedside stand. Her hands start to shake uncontrollably and she spills the contents onto the floor. Since the household staff has earlier been dismissed for the day; she calls for her Assistant Amanda to retrieve the pills.
“Amanda, come here this instance!” Claire orders.
“Yes, madam what do you desire?” Amanda a middle-aged brunette with speckles of gray in her severely pulled back hair enters the room.
“I desire you to clean up this mess, fetch me another pill box and a fresh glass of water, NOW!” Claire shouts sarcastically while rubbing her right temple in response to the excruciating pain she feels.
“Yes, Miss …” Whispers Amanda who nervously approaches the scattered tablets.
“Hurry up girl, I don’t have all day! Why I listened to you and allowed that nephew of yours into my bedroom.” Claire shrieks. Then snatching up one of the fallen pills from Amanda’s hand; she takes it gulping down the lukewarm water from the glass on her nightstand.
“Jonathan is really a very nice young man if only you would give him a chance.” Amanda replies in a subdued voice.
“Never mind … just LEAVE ME ALONE!” Claire lies back on a pillow; makes strange gurgling sound and then stares blankly at the ceiling.
For moments, Amanda just looks at her silent employer. As she creeps closer to the bed she almost lets out a sigh of relief. Then, as if shaking herself from a self-induced sleep, she moves quickly into the hall to make a telephone call.
However, when the ambulance finally arrives at Claire’s home, it is too late.
After the memorial services
Rachel possesses a sober look. She holds a single scarlet rose from the floral arrangement in her left hand and grips the memorial program in her right. Her husband’s face is a controlled mask.
As her daughters Karen and Katie move hastily from the cathedral; Rachel remains close to her husband walking slowly.
“I can’t believe that she’s finally gone.” The words are barely audible as they emerge from Rachel’s lips.
“Yes, my rose Claire is gone. However, I still feel that her evil legacy may live on in our daughter Karen.” Cedric murmurs to his wife.
“What can we do?” There is a slight quiver in Rachel’s voice.
“I don’t know if there is anything we can do, my rose. I believe that only time will tell.” Cedric Parker replies as he follows his petite wife to the waiting limo.
The final resting place of Claire Davenport is a specially designed crypt. There Rachel carefully places the silver urn. While the others unhurriedly head toward their waiting cars, a single figure remains. This lone individual lingers until the workmen complete their duties. She then carefully fingers each letter of Claire Monique Davenport’s name as if etching it into her brain.
Later that night
Claire’s house is strangely quiet. A solitary woman takes her key and opens the doors of the estate. Silently she climbs the stairs and enters Claire’s master bedroom looking at the few remaining pills on the immense Oriental rug.
After picking up the few scattered tablets, she opens the drawer of the nightstand and carefully replaces the half emptied pill box with the one she has concealed in her purse. This is the same discrete individual that previously delays leaving the crypt and is now positioned at the foot of the bed where Claire gasps her last breath. That person is Karen Parker. She has a small smirk on her face as she stares at the large picture of her deceased aunt.
“And now, it’s my turn.” She whispers confidently to the portrait. Karen is now no longer alone in the bedroom. A second shadowed figure has appeared in the room and is nodding her head in agreement. It is Amanda!
Sometimes creating a "cliff hanging" effect help the readers in drawing their own conclusions. It can also open the door to going from Short Story to Novella or even writing a Novel. It's great to have options and you already have your "captive audience."